NewsAlert: China’s Next Shenzhou Space Mission To Carry Three Astronauts



China's space program has made continual progress since a 2003 launch that made it the third nation to put a human in space. Two more manned missions have followed, including a space walk, and China separately seeks to launch a lunar rover next year. China launched its own space station program after being turned away from the ISS. 

China's next space mission will carry three astronauts who will dock with and live inside an experimental orbiting module launched last year,  the official Xinhua News Agency announced. .The Shenzhou 9 spacecraft will be launched aboard its Long March 2F rocket sometime between June and August,  Xinhua added, citing an unidentified spokesman for the manned space program, known as Shenzhou, or "Sacred Vessel."

China completed its first space rendezvous in 2011 when the unmanned Shenzhou 8 docked with the Tiangong 1 by remote  control. That was considered something of a breakthrough since early U.S. astronauts did so manually.

The astronauts will manually dock with the Tiangong 1 module that was launched last year and conduct scientific experiments while aboard, Xinhua said. It didn't say how long the mission was supposed to last.

China has scheduled two space docking missions for 2012 and plans to complete a manned space station around 2020 to replace Tiangong 1. At about 60 tons, the Chinese station will be considerably smaller than the 16-nation International Space Station.

The country launched its independent space station program after being turned away from the International Space Station, largely on objections from the United States. The U.S. is concerned  about the Chinese program's military links and the sharing of technology with its chief economic and political rival. 

The Daily Galaxy via AP and



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